Wednesday, 28 September 2016

On the 31st Anniversary of Jeremy's Wrongful Imprisonment

With the thirty first anniversary of my wrongful imprisonment just around the corner, I have been thinking a bit about the Jury verdict and what that meant. I was not convicted on a unanimous decision but by a 10:2 majority verdict, which is very important for a number reasons and I would like to discuss two of these.

The first issue is that during my Trial, the Court usher and others had noticed that one of the Jurors was seen to be asleep on several occasions whilst witness evidence was being given. I clearly recall that not only were his eyes closed but his head was tilted back, his mouth was open and he was snoring quite audibly. The Juror next to him kept nudging him to wake him up, though effective for a minute or two it wasn’t long before he started snoring again. 

On Friday 17th October prior to the commencement of proceedings, which coincidentally was the second day of my evidence, the usher brought this matter to the attention of Mr Arlidge the Prosecution QC who in turn informed the Judge. The fact that this issue had been officially reported should have led the Judge to dismiss this sleeping Juror member from continuing to serve. Geoffrey Rivlin, my Defence QC asked me if I wanted the Juror to be kicked out, but Rivlin’s advice to me was that the Juror should stay. I didn’t know the procedure nor the implications of this decision and so I did what I was advised to do. In hindsight that was a bad mistake because the last thirty years could have been so very different and I will explain why.

As I have stated the Jury found me guilty on a 10:2 majority verdict. The facts are that unfortunately we simply don’t know whether the sleeping Juror was one of the ten who found me guilty or was one of the two who concluded that I was not guilty.  The chances of it being a Juror who found in favour of a guilty verdict equates at 83.4%, there was a 50/50 possibility of the sleeping Juror being one of the two who voted not guilty but as a percentage of the twelve Jurors it works out at just an 8.3% chance. Looking at these figures it would be reasonable to conclude that the sleeping Juror voted guilty, had he been dismissed during the Trial then a 9:2 verdict would have been returned and ultimately this would have resulted in an acquittal[1].

In the days when hanging was in place, no man or woman was hanged if the Jury had reached a 10:2 majority verdict, the Home Secretary of the day would commute the death penalty to a prison sentence.  In 1994 I was informed that in 1988 Douglas Hurd the Home Secretary had changed the sentence, which was set by the Judge at my Trial of twenty-five years to a whole life tariff. There are currently around fifty prisoners serving a whole life tariff, only one it seems, me, has had this sentence imposed even though I was convicted on a 10:2 majority and not a unanimous verdict. As a result this whole life tariff is in effect a living death penalty yet history shows that I would not have been sentenced to death before the death penalty was abolished.


The second issue is that whilst considering their verdict the Jury asked a number of questions which were directed to the Trial Judge. One was on certain specific aspects of the forensic issues which had been given in evidence whilst a further question concerned the issue of who would inherit my parent’s estate, with the Jury specificallyasking if the beneficiaries could be any of the prosecution witnesses. They were told that certainly none of the prosecution witnesses would inherit any of the estate belonging to my mum and dad. The conclusion reached at trial being that no one had a clue who might inherit the estate.

On 3rd July 1986, some months prior to my Trial the Will of my grandmother, Mabel Speakman was given Probate. Her estate was valued at £70,963. However, gran had inherited all of mum and dad’s estate prior to her death. Upon her death her estate, including that of my parents, was inherited by her daughter, mum’s sister, Pamela Boutflour.

The Jury weren’t told that gran had inherited my parent’s estate, or that this estate was settled prior to Trial with Auntie Pam being the sole beneficiary. Had they been informed the Jury might have had a very different view of certain prosecution witnesses and their boasts to the Jury of huge wealth, when until July 1986 Pamela and Robert had wealth amounting to just a few thousand pounds.

It seems reasonable to conclude that Essex Police might have known of this issue and possibly proceeded to investigate matters, and others involving allegations of fraud committed by my relatives. For example those later reported by the farm secretary Barbara Wilson, but police conducted the investigation in a way that ensured findings simply went nowhere.  They stalled until after my first Appeal 1988 and after a Court battle between other family members fighting for their share of the family estate. And so the fraud case dragged on over eight years and then was dropped with no action being taken.

Had the Jury known about how gran’s Will was changed to exclude me, or that mum and dad’s estate had already been inherited prior to Trial by some of the main Prosecution witnesses then their question to the Judge asking who the beneficiaries were would not have been asked. Had the CPS known about this it would have been unlikely that I would have gone to Trial, obviously certain witnesses and their evidence would have been viewed as financially motivated. Sadly it seems that the Court/the CPS and the Defence were all kept in the dark about the money issue and misled about the actual forensics in my case.

Looking back

Now in 2016 after thirty one years in jail and the numerous changing of the goal posts, I still cannot obtain disclosure of key documents in this case including DCI Kenneally’s 6th September 1985 report which stated as a conclusion that: “The evidence indicates that Sheila was responsible”, a report written one month after the tragedies.

On 8th September 1985 I was taken into custody, on 13th September 1985 the D.P.P concluded that there was insufficient evidence available to charge me with the murder of my family – I was released from custody. Between 13th and 23rd September 1985 new evidence was put before the D.P.P. and on the 26th September 1985 it was decided that I could be charged with five counts of murder.

On 29th September 1985 I was re-arrested and charged with murder x 5 and I have been in custody ever since. What would the Jury think now after so much evidence has been unearthed considering the troubling questions they put to the Trial Judge?

In any event, how can it be right to give a man a whole life tariff to a person convicted on a 10:2 majority verdict with a Jury member having fallen asleep during proceedings and given a whole life tariff when the Trial Judge stated my sentence was set at 25 years.

So on this thirtieth year of my wrongful conviction it is extremely saddening to realise that had aspects of the Trial been handled correctly and the truth told it would have seen such a very different outcome for me. The fact that the Jury were misled on key points of evidence, and only eleven of the twelve jurors were actually paying attention to the evidence and not falling asleep is so hugely important. Had the verdict been 9:2 which seems probable I would have left the Court on the 28th October 1986 quite rightly as a free man.


[1] : “Subject to subsections (3) and (4) below, the verdict of a jury in proceedings in the Crown Court or the High Court need not be unanimous if—
(a)in a case where there are not less than eleven jurors, ten of them agree on the verdict; and
(b)in a case where there are ten jurors, nine of them agree on the verdict”.

Jeremy Bamber

Jeremy Bamber
Innocent Jeremy Bamber